Ghost Sighting

Ghost Sighting

As hot rodders, we remember cars. Although we may not be able to recall what we had for lunch yesterday, we have a knack for remembering the most subtle details of machines we spotted decades ago. For whatever reason, our brains understand that this type of thing is important, so they hold on.

Back in 2004 I was 11 years old. I was a year into my hot rod obsession and hellbent on learning everything there was to know about early iron. On a spring afternoon, I remember sitting out on our deck with my parents after dinner. Their subdivision has always been quiet, and there usually isn’t much traffic to speak of. This time, however, things were different.

Off in the distance, I heard a rumble. Moments later, a 1940 Ford coupe rolled by our house. It was tan, hoodless and was running some sort of V8 with multiple carbs sitting out in the open. It had red steelies, no hubcaps and wide whitewall tires. Chromed pencil tips exited beneath the rear bumper.

I felt like I had seen a ghost. “A hot rod?!” I said to myself. “On my street?!” I didn’t waste much time mulling it over. Instead, I ran after it. I chased it for a few houses before it disappeared from sight, never to be seen again.


Whenever I’m interviewing someone for a feature story, I like to ask about their early years: where they grew up, what their parents did for work, and if they had any siblings. Then, I break into one of my favorite portions of the conversation: influences. It’s here that I learn about customized model kits, drugstore hot rod magazines and—most importantly—early hot rod sightings.

Lately, I’ve had neighborhood hot rods on the mind. These cars changed the way we see vintage tin and influence what we’re doing today. I looked and looked for that ’40, but was never able to find out anything about it. Anywhere. The whole thing makes me wonder: does anyone recall a hoodless ’40 running around metro Detroit in the early 2000s? If so, I would love to know if the car still exists and if the owner remembers being chased by a barefoot, car-crazy kid on a warm spring afternoon. I can only hope so.

Joey Ukrop

Note: Lead photo is not the car, but a hoodless ’39 that I like. Click here for a great thread on neighborhood hot rods.

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